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Third-graders on the up and up

Christine Ina Casillas
Daily file photoLed by students at Brush Creek Elementary School in Gypsum, Eagle County's third-graders this year showed a rebound in performance on the annual reading test administered by the Colorado Student Assessment Program, or CSAP.
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“Brush Creek did exceptionally well,” Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman for the Eagle County School District, said Tuesday.

Districtwide, 83 percent of third-graders scored proficient or advanced on the CSAP test, compared to a 74 percent proficiency level recorded statewide.

Nearly three-fourths of Colorado’s third-graders scored proficient or advanced on this year’s reading achievement tests, according to results released Tuesday.

There also was steady improvement among minorities, poor students and disabled students, said the state’s education commissioner, Bill Moloney.

“Our most vulnerable children are advancing at a faster rate than our general population.” Moloney said. “In Colorado, unlike some other places, the learning gap is closing.”

No child unsatisfactory

No child is unsatisfactory, said Gary Rito, director of secondary curriculum, instruction and staff development for the Eagle County School District.

The latest CSAP scores show 74 percent of third-graders were proficient or advanced in reading, compared with 72 percent in 2001 and 2002 and 69 percent in 2000.

The Eagle County School District saw a 4 percentage jump in its third-grade CSAP scores in 2003. Last year, third-graders scored at 79 percent proficient.

“Our goal here is being 80 percent proficient,” Rito said. “After seeing the first results, it’s so far so good.”

John Brendza, assistant superintendent of the Eagle County School District, said it’s important, too, to remember that the students tested this year are not the same students tested last year.

“Every time we see third-grade results, it is our first look at a particular group of students,” Brendza said. “From here, we can follow this group of students as they progress through our system.”

Statewide, in the seventh administration of the CSAP’s third-grade reading assessment, 53,525 students were tested, with 39,746, or 74 percent, receiving proficient and advanced scores, the results show. Of these students, 5,098 students, or 10 percent, scored in the advanced range, the largest performance category.

Brush Creek stands tall

In that category, Brush Creek Elementary School, in its second year, stood tall at 95 percent.

“The scores are reflective of the kind of effort we’ve put in for the district,” said Mel Preusser, superintendent of the Eagle County School District. “Now we have to extend our focus on mathematics and writing, because it is one of our largest challenges.”

Rito likened the results to a strong, steady program.

“We’ve done things unusual,” Rito said. “We’ve stuck to our guns, and all in all, we’re very pleased with the results.

“This is an easier test because it only measures standard comprehension,” he added. “Next, we have fourth-grade reading and writing, and we’re going to continue our efforts to improve literacy.”

Red Hill Elementary School, also in its second year, scored 85 percent proficient and advanced, up from 75 percent.

“Red Hill is a fairly new school, and to score that high is great because they have a lot on their plate and they’re sticking to business,” he said.

Meadow Mountain Elementary School showed improvement from from last year with a score of 87 percent, up from 82 percent and Red Sandstone Elementary School also moved up, from 75 percent to 85 percent, in proficient or advanced.

Avon in a slump

Avon Elementary School slumped this year, however, dropping from 75 percent to 64 percent proficient or advanced.

“We’re in the process of getting the student information and finding out who was close to proficient and who didn’t quite make it,” Rito said. “Avon had some changes this year. We know there was third-grade teacher changes so that might have affected the score results.”

Grade 3 Lectura

The CSAP program also includes the Grade 3 Lectura, a Spanish-language assessment in which 1,677 of Colorado’s third-graders were tested this year. Districtwide, 85 percent of the students who took the Lectura scored proficient or advanced compared to 63 percent statewide, the reports show. At Avon Elementary School and Edwards Elementary School, there was an 84 percent proficiency for students who took the Lectura.

“Edwards did exceptionally well, especially with its second-language scores at 82 percent,” Rito said. “It’s quite good for them as a dual-language school. And they went through principal changes this year, as well.”

“The data from the Lectura suggested we are experiencing success in achieving literacy in a student’s native tongue. We must now focus on making sure our kids have the same success in English,” added Preusser.

“English-language proficiency is our goal for all students in this district, and we are aligning our resources to hit this target.”

Minorities improve

This year, the scores for all minority groups improved over last year. For example, Hispanic third-graders, who improved from 51 percent proficient and advanced in 2002 to 56 percent in 2003, registered the largest gain. Black students improved from 55 percent to 59 percent proficient and advanced; American Indians improved from 59 percent to 63 percent; and Asian Pacific Islanders improved from 71 percent to 75 percent proficient and advanced.

“If there is one theme here, it’s a theme of stability and coherence,” Moloney said.

Among disabled students, 34 percent scored in the two highest categories this year, up from 32 percent last year and 31 percent in 2001. Fifty-eight percent of poor students scored proficient or advanced this year, up from 56 percent last year and 51 percent in 2001.

“There’s nothing wrong with our kids,” Moloney said. “What’s different is what’s put in front of them. Without the proper challenge and the proper support, it’s not going to happen.”

The third-grade reading scores are the only results available from the 2003 CSAP testing. The remainder of the results – for reading in grades 4 to 10, writing in grades 3 to 10 and mathematics in grades 5 to 10 – will be released in August.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.


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